Our Top 4 Favorite Restorative Justice Books
From Beverly Title, Ph.D
For the Pueblo people, dragonfly is a creature who moves between worlds, water, land and sky, and can take your prayers to heaven. As dragonfly represents my prayers for greater understanding among people through restorative justice, I offer a peek at these books that inspire my work to manifest this vision on earth.
Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr – This seminal work introduced restorative justice to the United States and much of the English-speaking world. Published first in 1990, it champions the needs of victims and offenders and suggests an alternative to the retributive justice paradigm. Zehr brings logical, academic and religious perspectives to the discussion and distinguishes the retributive “lens” from the restorative one. He suggests that the lens we look through determines how we frame both the problem and the solution. This book identifies the essential restorative questions as: What harm was done? What needs to be done to repair the harm? Who is responsible for the repair? Zehr lays out the essential concepts of restorative justice; the book is as valuable today as it was in 1990. A must read for all RJ practitioners and students.
Dancing with a Ghost by Rupert Ross – Rupert Ross went to Kenora, Ontario as an Assistant Crown Attorney who went to remote villages in northern Canada to administer the Queen’s Justice. In the process the Ojibway and Cree taught him about their Native vision of justice.
“From learning how to listen, I slowly learned how to speak (and to be silent!) so that I might be better able to join in real communication with the people of the North.”
In the Native tradition ”What those who stumbled or lost their way needed was to be given a helping hand; to be redirected and counseled. Besides guidance, those who had done serious harm were expected to purify themselves in a sweat lodge and to petition the manitous (spirits) for good dreams.” Their justice does not include the concept of punishment!
Ross is a bridge builder to Indigenous wisdom. He says he offers this book, “to help make the majority culture aware of how chronically ignorant we are of the very complex world Native people inhabit.” The book is a delightful journey from Euro-Canadian culture to another way of seeing the world, a way that holds the value of each life in the central place. It is filled with wonderful stories that illustrate the basic principles of Native justice.
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury – This is not actually a Restorative Justice book, but, for me, it opened the door to it all. When I was studying conflict resolution in graduate school, this book introduced me to the concept of mutual benefit, the win-win solution. It presented the idea of principled negotiation that is “tough on the problem and soft on the people.” Now doesn’t that sound like Restorative Justice? I think it is a good read for Restorative Justice practitioners to further hone their skills in creating restorative agreements.
The book is an outgrowth of the Harvard Negotiation Project and has great wisdom about approaching differences in a respectful way.
The Little Book of Restorative Discipline in Schools by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz and Judy H. Mullet – When I first read this book, I wanted to get it in the hands of every educator, so I bought a hundred copies and started giving them out. The subtitle is “Teaching responsibility; creating caring climates.” What educator would not want to accomplish both of those?
This book is full of applications and models of restorative justice for schools. It illustrates theory with interesting stories and presents logical arguments for implementing restorative practices in classrooms and school-wide. It is likely to become the classic for school-based Restorative Justice practice that Changing Lenses is in the criminal justice arena. Seeing what a powerful difference Restorative Justice can make in a school culture is exciting; Kappy and I have witnessed dramatic culture shifts in the schools we’ve worked with to implement restorative practices.
Teaching Peace by Beverly Title – My new favorite Restorative Justice book is mine. That does not presume to suggest it is on a par with the other four in this list; it’s just what’s most up for me right now, and, immodestly, I do think it has value.
This book tells the story of a community that embraced restorative justice in 1996 and is continuing and expanding the Restorative Justice journey today. This community based their Restorative Justice practice on 5 R’s: relationship, respect, responsibility, repair, and reintegration. The book explores each of these concepts and is filled with stories to illustrate Restorative Justice principles.
While it was wonderful for me to tell the amazing story of Teaching Peace, what makes my book a favorite is how it explores the way doing the practice of Restorative Justice changed the lives of the practitioners. It shows how Restorative Justice is not just about a program, or applications for criminal justice and schools; but how Restorative Justice can be used on a day-to-day basis to enhance the quality of our relationships with our children, neighbors, co-workers, parents, and spouses. It shows how Restorative Justice really is for all of us. I hope you’ll read it and share your feedback.
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